Chiang Mai is a shopping paradise, simply because there is such a wide range of unusual goods at knock down prices that shopping in Chiang Mai is real fun. The quality is variable but the value for money undeniable, and most leave with much fuller luggage than when they arrived. When visiting Thailand it’s advisable to leave your shopping for Chiang Mai, it’s considered one of the cheapest places in Thailand and getting about town is easy.
The centre of shopping is undoubtedly the Night Bazaar, which takes up several blocks every evening along Chang Klan road. At this place you can wander among the countless pavement stalls, shops and arcades admiring the beautifully crafted Northern Thai handicrafts. The more serious can head to the huge handicraft wholesalers at San Kamphaeng and check Borsang village with its colourful umbrellas. Baan Tawai to the south of the city is a busy working carving centre with some exquisite pieces on display and the best selection of antiques.
Scattered around the centre of Chiang Mai are plenty of handicraft shops catering to tourist shopping tastes. These are more specialised and slightly more expensive but present a better quality. There are fabric shops and tailors everywhere, quirky little establishments selling curious hill tribe products and crafts, shoe shops and boutiques, jewellers and gems dealers, and some very exclusive antique shops.
Chiang Mai shopping tips
Enjoy a thriving market in Chiang Mai and there are plenty of dealers as well as pretenders scattered about the main tourist areas, particularly on Tapae rd. The upper level of the Night Bazaar arcade has several reputable dealers and there are plenty of exquisite and valuable pieces in display – a result of more than 800 years of flourishing arts in Lanna. Prices are generally cheaper than Bangkok but there is strict control on exporting these and a genuine article will come with a certificate from the Fine Arts Department. If you are a really serious collector, looking for serious prices, spend the day at Baan Tawai village, south of the city, which is the largest such cluster of shops in Thailand.
There are plenty of options for second hand books (in English, French, German and Dutch) around the city, with a cluster of well stocked shops tucked down the lanes east of Tapae Gate (well signposted along the moat). New books on Thailand and other popular subjects are available at DK Books (Kotchasarn rd, east side of moat) and Suriwong Book Centre (Sri Donchai rd). Asia Books also has pop fiction racks placed in many tourist spots.
Ceramics are popular, though a little difficult to ship home. San Kamphaeng has the best selection of fine Asian porcelain, and other articles big and small.
Chiang Computer hardware shops
Locally manufactured hardware is considerably cheaper and the quality acceptable. Laptops however are all imported. Pantip Plaza, near the Night Bazaar has three storeys of IT vendors. A few shops sell pirated software (which we don’t endorse!)
Handicrafts are numerous and found on sale everywhere. They really do make super souvenirs and gifts and can be incredibly cheap, though the quality can vary quite a bit. The Night Bazaar is the most convenient and usually the cheapest place to buy these in the city. The Northern Crafts Centre, near the Rail Station, is another good place to see the craftsmen and women in action.
Those serious in buying Thai handicrafts should arrange a morning trip to San Khampeang in the east. Traditionally the Chiang Mai handicrafts industry has based itself overhere and if you’re buying in bulk significant savings can be made.
Chiang Mai Jewellery shops
Northern Thailand produces a very unique style of silverware, much of it influenced by the hill tribes who brought their trade and styles with them from Central Asia. Some very detailed and intricate pieces can be found at specialist stores, at the Night Bazaar and in exclusive shops. Contemporary designs are also popular and found widely. Gold plays an important role in Thai status, and the largest conglomeration of dealers is found near the Wororot and Flower markets alongside the river.